Editing, directing and The Cool World: filmmaking as a choreographic art

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Given that cinema is a movement-based art form, this article proposes that a director’s work is more analogous to that of a choreographer than that of an author. From there, it considers others involved in choreographing a film’s movement and focusses on the film editor. The case study for revealing how directing and editing shape cinematic movement is The Cool World (1963), a radical and insufficiently recognised film directed and edited by Shirley Clarke. My analysis looks closely at a specific passage in the film to identify how its movement-phrases, as shaped in editing, convey or create experiences of community, space, and subtext – experiences that cannot be created on paper or even in shots until the shots are edited. Through this case study of a director-editor, I demonstrate that editing is a process of authoring the movement-phrases that move the spectator. Having considered editing as an intrinsic part of Clarke’s directorial agency, I conclude with brief consideration of the question: if we understand a film to be at least in part ‘authored’ in editing when the director and editor are one person, what happens when they are not?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1587-1605
Number of pages19
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number10
Early online date19 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Shirley Clarke
  • editing
  • editing as choreography
  • film directing
  • choreographic
  • director-editor
  • authorship
  • distributed cognition
  • collaboration
  • The Cool World
  • movement phrasing
  • film editing


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